Emotional Intelligence is the ability to recognize and understand emotions in ourselves and others, and our capability to use this awareness to manage our behavior and relationships. Put simply, it is the intelligent use of emotions. Most jobs involve working with other people so using our emotions intelligently is important. And of course, emotional intelligence is critical to interacting with others outside of work as well.
Some people may have a very high IQ but low emotional intelligence. A vision of a nutty professor comes to mind – someone who is really smart but not particularly effective at dealing with others. The good news is that, unlike our IQ, we can improve our emotional intelligence by enhancing our understanding of ourselves and others.
Below are four elements that make up emotional intelligence with a suggested action step to help you improve in each area.
This is the ability to recognize your emotions and how they affect your thoughts and behavior. Further, it involves an awareness of your values, strengths, and weaknesses.
Action item: One of the most effective methods for the development of self-awareness is to spend some time reflecting. Ask yourself questions like the ones below and really reflect on the answers and what they tell you about yourself.
- What is most important to me?
- What am I trying to achieve?
- What am I doing that is working?
- What do I need to change to be most effective?
- Why did I react the way I did to recent situations? What would be a better reaction in the future?
Emotionally intelligent people are always seeking to improve themselves. They have a growth mindset and see feedback and constructive criticism as an opportunity to learn, grow, and improve.
Action item: Seek out feedback from your boss, coworkers, friends and family to identify areas where you can improve. Use this information to modify your behavior in a positive way.
- Empathy and Social Skills
The ability to demonstrate empathy towards others is critical to emotional intelligence. This involves feeling what they feel, understanding what they say, and being attuned to social signals about what they need or want. Once we can demonstrate empathy and recognize the emotions of others, we can proceed to cultivate and utilize our social skills.
Action item: Work on actively listening to other people. This involves attending to the whole message the other person is trying to communicate by minimizing distractions; using appropriate body language; summarizing what they say periodically; and asking open-ended questions. We often begin formulating our response as the other person is talking and should try to resist the urge to do that as it negatively impacts our listening.
- Emotional Regulation
Have you ever felt that your reaction was the wrong one? Have you ever overreacted? Emotionally intelligent people are able to recognize and regulate their emotions.
Action item: When in a situation where you feel yourself getting stressed or upset, practice the pause. Step away and do some breathing, take a walk, drink some water, etc. Come back to deal with the situation when you are in a calmer state and can respond thoughtfully rather than reacting in the moment.
In conclusion, cultivating emotional intelligence is critical to our effectiveness at work and in life in general. It will likely be easier for some people than others, depending on natural talents and dispositions, but we can all grow in this area. Try some of the tips shared to elevate yours!